“There’s no overreaction from our players or our coaching staff, whether we’ve won three in a row or whether we lost three in a row,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “It’s all about the next game and staying focused on making sure that we’re ready to go.”
According to Schafer, the Red’s (15-6-4, 10-5-3 ECAC Hockey) first three-game losing streak since last February is not a cause for alarm. Coincidentally, Friday night’s contest in Hanover, N.H. marked the first time in two and a half years that Cornell registered four goals and still lost the contest.
“I think you have to address every game in terms of its own individuality,” Schafer said. “There have been games I am sure that people would walk out and say, ‘Oh, they played really well tonight.’ And, maybe I’m in the locker room just absolutely giving it to our guys. You don’t hear those things. [Then,] there are games that we’ve played this year, like against Harvard, where ‘Hey, you guys did exactly what we talked about. Good for you. You came prepared, you did whatever you could, don’t sweat the small stuff and let’s move on here.’”
During this three-game losing streak, the Red has been on the wrong side of a number of unfortunate bounces of the puck. Princeton, the team that initiated Cornell’s losing skid, netted two goals in the final minute of play to come away with a 2-1 victory. Perhaps the most unusual goal Cornell surrendered over the past two weeks occurred against the Green. Junior netminder Ben Scrivens vacated the net to play a puck, which was lofted into the defensive zone by rookie defenseman Jim Gaudet. The shot, which otherwise would have sailed over the crossbar, ricocheted directly down off of Scrivens’ stick and into the net.
“If the puck bounces a few different ways, we’re sitting here with three straight wins,” Schafer said. “You can look at it in a very optimistic way and say, ‘Hey, we’d be sitting here atop of the league right now if we don’t give up a whacky goal in Dartmouth, [Harvard’s] goaltender doesn’t play absolutely out of his gore on Saturday and a couple of whacky things don’t happen in the Princeton game in the last 38 seconds. We’re sitting here with three straight wins.’”
The Red’s penalty kill, which was ranked No. 5 in the nation heading into Saturday’s contest in Cambridge, Mass., surrendered an uncharacteristic four power play goals to the Crimson. Although Cornell remains the third-ranked defense nationally, the Red’s penalty kill unit slipped last weekend to No. 19 with a pedestrian 86.3 percent kill rating. During the two games this past weekend, the defense permitted five short-handed tallies on 12 opportunities.
“We are very focused defensively, and our penalty kill is usually pretty strong,” said junior defenseman Justin Krueger. “We had a couple of weak breaks there, just the way the shot went in and a couple little mistakes that happened. … We definitely have to focus on being strong defensively again, and then on our penalty kill.”
Cornell, which had climbed to as high as the No. 3-ranked team in the nation, tumbled five spots since last week to No. 11.
“The thing is, in hockey there’s adversity you go through in games, and ups and downs,” Krueger added. “It’s just the way you deal them, the way you come back, so if a goal goes in and it’s a bad goal, the whole team has to regroup together, come out strong, try to forget that and just focus on the next shift.”
The good news for Cornell is senior co-captain Michael Kennedy is expected to provide an added boost with his return to the lineup this weekend. The forward echoed his coach’s sentiments, stating the outcomes from the last few games have not been indicative of the team’s style of play.
“From what I saw, the guys competed really well,” Kennedy said. “We were able to get some 5-on-5 offense that was missing from previous weekends. I thought the guys played physical, which again is pretty much a staple in our game, so obviously I am disappointed that we came back empty-handed, but I’m pretty happy with how the guys competed and how they worked. Hopefully, we can carry that over.”
Cornell hopes history will repeat itself. Looking to rebound from last season’s three-game losing streak, the Red responded with victories in four of its next six contests.